Blazers Can't Recover From 'Embarrassing' First Quarter Versus Clippers

by Casey Holdahl
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LOS ANGELES -- The Portland Trail Blazers started a two-game, Western Conference road trip by giving up nearly 50 points in the first quarter to the L.A. Clippers on the way to a 133-116 loss Tuesday night at Staples Center.

“I thought the first 16 minutes of the game, frankly, was a little embarrassing,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “We put up a good fight the last eight minutes of the second quarter and competed well at both ends, got back into it. But the first 16 minutes were extremely disappointing.”

The Trail Blazers are now 30-20 overall and 15-10 on the road this season. The loss extends Portland’s losing streak versus L.A. to five games and ensures that the Clippers will win the season series with one contest remaining.

While playing porous defense has been far too common for the Trail Blazers this season, they might have reached their nadir in the first quarter of Tuesday’s loss in Los Angeles. The Clippers made their first eight attempts, none of which were all that well contested, and would go on to put 47 points on the board, the most the Blazers have ever allowed in a first quarter in franchise history and the most the Clippers have ever put up in a first quarter, on 72 percent shooting from the field and 64 percent shooting from three.

But while Portland’s defense was almost nonexistent in the first quarter, they did managed to score 32 points on 52 percent shooting, so the margin could have been much, much worse.

And then it was.

The Clippers went on an 15-3 run early in the second quarter to take their largest lead of the game at 64-39, and at that point, those back home in Oregon were probably wondering if perhaps their time wouldn’t be better spent paying attention to something else.

However, while those folks were reaching for their remotes, the Trail Blazers, and specifically Norman Powell, started to figure things out on both sides of the ball. Portland would eventually close out the half on a 25-7 run to cut the Clippers lead to 73-66 going into the intermission.

But try as they might, the Blazers could never get the combinations of stops and buckets they’d need to tie the game, let alone take the lead. They came close to getting on top in the third thanks to a 12-0 run that cut L.A.’s advantage to 84-82 with 5:38 to play in the quarter, but the Clippers answered by closing the quarter out on a 17-7 run of their own.

“To cut it to two on the road against a team like that was a pretty impressive effort,” said Stotts. “That part of it was very encouraging.”

Portland got the deficit to single digits early in the fourth, but they’d get no closer in the final 10 minutes.

“We’ve got to put together a full 48-minute effort on the defensive end,” said Powell. “Whatever is going on offensively, not too worried about it, but defensively we’ve got to come out with the same energy and effort we had... when we went on that big run to close out the half. We did it in stretches tonight -- they felt our physicality on the defensive end, working together, which got us back into the game -- but we’ve got to continue to have the effort from the jump.”

Powell led the Blazers with 32 points on 8-of-18 shooting from the field and 14-of-15 shooting from the line, four rebounds an an assist in 38 minutes. CJ McCollum scored 12 of his 24 points in the first quarter and finished with six assists, three rebounds and two steals.

Robert Covington added 15 points, nine rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block in 36 minutes and Enes Kanter, who returned to the starting lineup with Jusuf Nurkic sitting out due to right knee inflammation, contributed 13 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks in 36 minutes.

Paul George led all scorers with 36 points on 11-of-18 shooting. Kawhi Leonard finished with 29 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists and Reggie Jackson added 23 points in 26 minutes off the bench.

The Trail Blazers now head north to face the Utah Jazz, owners of the best record in the NBA, Thursday night in Salt Lake City. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.

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